Most DUI arrests are the product of a police traffic stop.  Police need “reasonable suspicion” of a violation to stop or detain you; even the smallest violation will allow the police to stop you.  For example, around “bar close” many officers in Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo will stop vehicles in downtown areas for having an inoperable license plate light, making an improper turn, or not signalling 100′ prior to turning at an intersection.  These stops are known as “pre-text” stops because the officer is using the underlying minor traffic violation as a pre-text to conduct a DUI investigation.  As long as the stop is not based on being a protected class (think race, religtion, etc), pre-text stops have generally been upheld by the courts as legal.

Once stopped, there are some general things you should know.  First you have to provide your license, registration, and insurance card if requested.  You also have to exit the vehicle if requested.  Be aware that an aggressive officer looking for DUI drivers will be looking for the following indicators to extend the “stop” to a full blown DUI investigation: driving behavior, odor of alcohol, extreme nervousness, fumbling with license, bloodshot or watery eyes, slurred speech, etc.  

The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests: the officer will likely ask you to take these sobriety tests.  Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo police officers are trained to ask for consent to take these tests in a leading manner.  For example, when I was working with the Fargo Police Department, my typical approach was “Sir, you haven’t been drinking tonight, right?” “And you feel like you’re okay to drive, true?” “Great, you don’t mind taking a few quick tests to prove that then, do you?”  Drivers feel obligated to do these tests, but in fact there is no obligation to take the SFSTs.  The main sobriety tests are the Horiztonal Gaze Nystagmus (eye test), Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand.  Officers will occassionally ask for a counting, alphabet, or finger dexterity test.  Contrary to popular rumor, you will not be asked to say the alphabet backwards.  Again, you can refuse these tests.

Remember the police are investigating you for a crime; do you want to help them?

If the police suspect you are DUI, they will advise you of the North Dakota Implied Consent Advisory.  This piece of legislation indicates that by driving a car you have in fact consented to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine your BAC unless you expressly refuse.  You’ll then likely be asked to submit to an “on site screening test.”  This test is usually not admissible at a criminal trial, but refusing to take this test (which is usually a quick breath test) can result in being charged with the crime of  “refusal” which is criminally punished in North Dakota to the same extent as a DUI and carries with it enhanced penalties for DOT license suspensions.

If you register above a .08 on the “on site screening test” you’ll likely be arrested for DUI.  You’ll be advised of the North Dakota Implied Consent Advisory again and asked to take a Chemical Test; this will be a blood, breath, or urine test.  Again, contrary to popular belief, it is entirely the officer’s decision which test he offers; you cannot and do not get to choose.  You can however ask for an independent test but you will be required to pay for it.  If you refuse to take the chemical test, you again can be charged with “refusal,” as outlined above.  If you take the test, it will likely occur at the jail facility.  If it’s a breath test, you’ll be given the results immediately and issued a report and notice outlining information for the DOT suspensions that come with a result above .08 BAC.  If you take a blood test, the report and notice will get mailed to you later.  Of particular note, before you take the test, you have a right to a “reasonable period of time” to consult with an attorney.

After the test, you’ll be processed and booked into the jail facility.  You’ll likely be able to post bond.  Depending on any prior DUIs you may have, most local jails will allow you to post a bond around $500 for a first offense DUI.  A 4th offense DUI in lifetime (with some exceptions)  is considered a felony with a likely requirement that you see a judge before being assigned a bond.
It’s imperative to involve your attorney immediately to advocate on your behalf.

**This post is meant for general informational purposes only.  There are many nuances to DUI investigations and criminal charges stemming from violations of NDCC 39-08-01.  You should consult with an independent attorney with questions specific to your case.  This information does not create and attorney-client relationship.  Attorneys at Redmann Law, P.C. are licensed to practice law in North Dakota state and federal courts.

-Chris Redmann